Middle East

Syria's internet back on after blackout

A Google Anayltics graph shows Syria's communcations blackout Wednesday.

BEIRUT: Internet connections in Syria were restored Wednesday evening, after an eight-hour blackout left the country offline for the second time in a week.

Phone services were also up by the evening, Reuters reported, after a day where lines into the country rang dead.

Syria’s online connections with the rest of the globe dropped out at around 10 a.m. local time to be reinstated around 6 p.m.

While the Internet may have been working inside the country, “traffic is not flowing between Syria and the rest of the world,” Jim Cowie, chief technology officer at Renesys, a company which tracks international online traffic, told The Daily Star Wednesday morning. “The entire country has been removed from the Internet.”

This is the sixth communications blackout in Syria since that start of the 2-year civil war, and follows a 21-hour phone and internet blackout last Thursday.

Web tracking firms have blamed previous blackouts on organized attempts by the government to shut the Internet down, while Damascus has said that such outages are technological faults.

Syria's Communications Ministry reported that the internet outage was a result of a rebel bomb that cut a cable, in an area about 60 kilometers north of Damascus.

Wednesday’s shutdown could have been caused by “deliberate activation of a national ‘kill switch’” or a “technical fault in a central facility,” Cowie said.

However, Cowie noted, the blackout was nearly identical to previous incidents, none of which were “ever completely explained” by government officials.

Nearly all Internet is Syria is centralized and is handled by a single provider who controls the flow of traffic to and from international markets. This makes it “very easy to shut down the Internet,” Cowie said.

As the blackout continued into the afternoon, rebels in Aleppo detonated two car bombs outside the walls of a central prison before trying to storm it.

Fierce clashes raged around the complex between oppostion forces and government troops, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The jail is believed hold around 4,000 prisoners, including 250 for crimes related to the 26-month uprising against Bashar Assad’s regime.

Tensions also ratcheted up on Syria’s border with Israel Wednesday as two projectiles slammed into Israeli-occupied Mount Hermon.

Although no damages or injuries were caused, according to an Israeli army spokesperson, mortar fire had been gradually increasing in the past few months as rebel and government forces battle near the strategic Golan plains.

The uptick in violence in Aleppo and the Golan comes as U.S. and Russian work to propel their fledgling peace plan forward.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday they believed they could pull off peace talks next month, despite back opposing sides in the conflict.

"Both of us are...very, very hopeful that within a short period of time, pieces will come together so that the world, hopefully, will be given an alternative to the violence and destruction that is taking place in Syria at this moment," Kerry told a news conference after meeting Lavrov in Kiruna, Sweden.

"I would very much share the assessments just presented by John," Lavrov said.

Differences between Russia, a main ally of Assad, and the United States, which supports those trying to topple him, have long obstructed United Nations action on the turmoil convulsing Syria for more than two years.

As momentum gathered for an international initiative to draw the conflict to an end, diplomats announced that the U.N. General Assembly is expected to approve an Arab-backed resolution later Wednesday calling for political transition in the country and strongly condemning Assad’s regime.

Reflecting the fractured diplomatic environment, Russia has urged U.N. members to vote "no," while Argentina asked Qatar, the lead sponsor, to water down language welcoming the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition body, which it refused to change. – with agencies





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